Dec 26, 2009

Top ten best electronica albums of 2009: part one of three

This is part one.   
For part two, click here
For part three, click here

10 - Telefon Tel Aviv -  Immolate Yourself

This band started 2009 with two momentous events: the death of Charles Cooper and the release of this third studio album. Such tragedy overshadowed a great album full of 1980s analogue confidence - and curtailed what would have been a fascinating future for the pair.

I called Immolate Yourself "insubstantial" back in January, but you have to lie back and let yourself be overtaken by it. One moment it is channelling the ghost of the Pet Shop Boys, while the next moment it could be Brian Eno in a cavern or the Human League on GHB.

It was unashamedly pop: check the new wave joy of Helen Of Troy. Buy it from Bleep or Boomkat.

9 - Lone - Ecstacy And Friends

My computer speakers can't cope with Lone's new album, as I mentioned here just a few weeks ago. Maybe my old cobwebby PC just has a function in it that cannot cope with anyone who grabs Boards Of Canada, rubs them up against Bibio and produces a beats album that gave Hudson Mohawke a run for his money.

This was Nottingham boy Lone's difficult third album: a lush, poly-rhythmic long player that, t'be honest, struggled to be heard amongst all the other rhythm-reapers of 2009. It's difficult to exorcise the washing repetitions of Waves Imagination, or to brush off to smooth, silkiness of the future party track To Be With A Person You Really Dig.

Get some good speakers, then listen to Waves Imagination (Goldies Timeless without the d 'n' b, anyone?) Buy it from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

8 - Lukid - Foma

Luke 'Lukid' Blair's sophomore long-player took the foundations laid by Autechre and Eno and blew them wide open. Foma was this year's first essential electronica album, and it sounds even better knowing what albums came after from other artists in 2009.

This is utterly in the vein of classic electronic music (it is the sound of a man playing with his machines into the wee hours of the night). The crunchy wooziness seemed to stretch it out into something new, until the sound was more ambient than a dialling tone. The buzzing anticipation of the first 30 seconds of Slow Hand Slap are better than most albums this year.

Have a listen to Fall Apart, and while you're doing that, buy it from Boomkat or Piccadilly.

7 - 2562 - Unbalance

Dubstep inspired by Detroit techno? This was the unlikely starting-point for 2562, whose Unbalance was a rhythmic, deep follow-up to his much acclaimed 2008 debut Ariel. Of course, dubstep is a tired genre, and this album was in danger of being swept under the dancefloor. Indeed, I didn't even feature it on this here website.

But listen! The pounding Flashback was a nuclear missile aimed squarely at your feet, while the reverberating saw bass of Like A Dream or the snapping loops on Yes/No reminded you this was music for the head too. How could you ignore it? 2562's Unbalance was a triumph.

Have some trippy Love In Outer Space. Buy Unbalance from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

6 - Harmonic 313 - When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence

More than most on this list, Harmonic 313 succeeded in carving out a very particular furrow this year. By the time When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence came out at the start of the year, Harmonic 313's solid techno sound was already recognisable.

Don't get distracted by the Speak and Spell novelty value: there is true feeling here. I rather pretentiously described Harmonic 313 as a "siren song of a cyborg" calling from some distant shore. It's not. It's just great subwoofer-friendly dance techno (check the bass on Cyclotron!) churned out by one of the best ambient producers of the past 20 years

Quandrant 3 is quite lovely and brilliant. Once you've listened to that, purchase the LP from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

The top five will be on this site from tomorrow...

Not quite in the top ten (part one)

I never claim this blog to be comprehensive, even though it is subtitled 'From AFX to Yokota'. So here is what missed the list for no reason other than, well, I didn't put it on the list.

I didn't include Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest, even though I loved Two Weeks. It just wasn't electronic enough for this top ten run-down (same for the wonderful Animal Collective long-player Merriweather Post Pavilion). Other albums just passed me by, so there's a severe lack of Zomby's Nintendo-nudging One Foot Ahead Of The Other, nor is there Jon Hopkin's compelling Insides album.

I kinda got bored with Venetian Snares, so that's why Filth isn't featured. And this is an album top ten, so what a shame I couldn't mention some great tracks from 2009: Burial's expansive Fostercare, Kode 9's excellent Black Sun (well done, Hyperdub, for a great year), or a definite classic, Mount Kimbie's Maybes.

This is part one.   
For part two, click here
For part three, click here


DrunkenMonkey said...

Thanks for this. I like your choices, and I am glad Telefon Tel Aviv made your list. I had a similar reaction to it at first, but the more I listen to it, the more I like it. It has a deep, dark flare to it that grabs me more and more with each listen.

Fat Roland said...

Agreed. I hate describing things as "growers", but I think Immolate Yourself is exactly that. There's no way it would have been in my top ten a couple of months ago.